CRC’s ordination controversy

I spent almost my entire career as a Jewish communal professional working for the American Jewish Committee, America’s oldest human relations organization.

A primary focus of the organization was fostering positive relations between Jews and this country’s various religious and ethnic communities.

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A significant amount of my time involved working with Roman Catholics to build bridges of understanding between our two communities, so I was saddened to learn that Central Reform Congregation, despite being asked by Archbishop Raymond Burke and by the Director of the Office of Ecumencial and Inter-religious Affairs to not lend its support to the group wanting to ordain women as priests, operating outside the pale of the Catholic Church, chose to ignore the request, thus demonstrating a marked disrespect for the doctrine of the Catholic Church.

This action, by CRC, is a direct interference in the internal affairs of the Catholic Church. Whether or not one agrees with Church doctrine on ordination, or is sympathetic to the wishes of women who want to become priests within the Catholic Church, is not the issue.

The issue is respect for the doctrines of other religious communities. Furthermore, most Christians, including Catholics, do not differentiate between the various branches of Judaism and view this action as “THE” Jewish community involving itself in Church matters.

Ordination is an issue for the Church to grapple with and is not our business. One needs to ask, how would we, in the Jewish community, react if a non-Jewish organization told us who should or should not be ordained a rabbi, who should or should not be allowed to read from the Torah. These are matters for us in the Jewish community to decide, just as priesthood is a matter for the Catholic Church to decide.

In the short run, relations between the Jewish community and the Catholic community in St. Louis have been seriously strained. A lot of disappointment has been sustained.

What will be the long term effect remains to be seen. I hope that this unfortunate crack in the bridge that so many individuals and organizations, including CRC and the Archdiocese, have worked so hard to build can be repaired.

Rosalyn Borg

Area Director, retired

St. Louis Chapter

American Jewish Committee

I was never more proud to be a member of Central Reform Congregation than I was this past Sunday. Behind all the beautiful ritual and tradition that unfolded during the two-and-a-half hour Catholic ordination ceremony, was the amazingly palpable love, respect, admiration, and cooperation that both faith communities, Jewish and Catholic, showed for each other. Catholic and Jew singing side by side in the choir with similar joy and enthusiasm; Jew and Catholic working side by side in the kitchen with the same intensity of purpose; both Catholic and Jew recognizing the enormity of this holy event. Let this be a model for true interfaith relations! Thank you, Rabbi Talve, for the holy leadership you provide to this community! At CRC, we don’t just hear about the blessed hospitality of Abraham, we witness it first hand in our Sukkat Shalom.

Michael DiPlacido

St. Louis

The recent “ordination” of two women as priests at Central Reform Congregation was, I am sure, an honest attempt on Rabbi Susan Talve’s part to perform some kind of feminist mitzvah. However, it was instead simply another example of condescending liberal elitism — the thought here being that a Jewish rabbi knows, better than all the Catholic people and their religious leaders, how that religion should handle its ministry.

Classical liberal thought rested on the ideas of tolerance and non-interference in the affairs of other individuals and groups. Modern liberalism instead supports the notion that others are inferior and unable to live properly without the help and guidance of an enlightened few.

Although the “ordination” was clearly meant to be symbolic, the likely unfortunate consequences of the event will be all too real. Perhaps if the rabbi wanted to make a feminist statement, it would have been wiser to simply write a check to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Mark Brodsky


It is obvious to me that a lot of the uproar from the Roman Catholic Church over the ordination of women as priests has to do with the threat to their patriarchal rule…their fear of loss of power. It is also clear that most Roman Catholics would not just allow but would welcome women priests, along with an end to celibacy in the priesthood. So who jumps in to support this important movement forward? Why, Central Reform Congregation and Rabbi Susan Talve of course. CRC and Rabbi Talve don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk. Rather than be safe, rather than be complacent, rather than operate out of the fear of shunning, we at CRC, and yes, I am proud to say that I am a member, we at CRC open not just our hearts and minds, but literally open our doors to anyone needing a place of refuge, or a place to celebrate, or both … and you should have been there, because it was an amazing event to be a part of. Central Reform Congregation … who else in our community would so dare?

Robert Fishbone

St. Louis

I was disappointed to see Rabbi Talve and CRC involved in the Catholic ordination issue that is currently in the news. It disappoints me on several levels. The most important is that we as Jews do not under these circumstances belong in the discussion. This is a Catholic matter, nothing more.

In the Post-Dispatch article, Rabbi Talve was quoted stating that she and her board consider this a matter of sanctuary/safety and it is clearly not. The two individuals are not in danger, therefore the rabbi and CRC do not have a legitimate place in the discussion. I don’t see an analogous situation if the tables were reversed, where we as Jews would not feel that Catholics were “stepping over the line.”

As to the issue of CRC providing the venue, this too is inappropriate. If the parties in the ordination were merely requesting to rent the building or a room and the entire transaction took place as a business transaction, without weighing in on the religious issue, this might be justified. However, this clearly is not the case.

This certainly is not an interfaith matter.

Jews don’t have a place at the table. The issue is of such great magnitude, because the actions have an effect on our community during a time when interfaith dialogue is so critical. Inserting themselves into a non-secular matter takes the focus off legitimate interfaith issues.

As to this being a women’s issue, they should have considered the overarching significance and put the Jewish community concerns ahead of theirs.

I’m sure the intentions of Rabbi Talve and CRC were sincere, but I don’t think they were well-thought-out.

Rick Rovak

St. Louis

At Sunday’s event I found myself questioning: Is being inclusive something we think we will just arrive at, or is it something we strive to have in our lives on an ongoing basis, putting aside our differences and celebrating our similarities in an atmosphere of peace and acceptance?

For some people, like Rabbi Susan, doing the right thing comes easier than for most of us. We might think about what others might think or say; sometimes letting our egos get in the way. I’ve watched her pray with the utmost care to be about moving forward in serving her community with holy intent. She weighs everything before making hard decisions she is well aware will affect those around her.

This past Sunday, I was immersed in sounds of inclusiveness vocalized by the multi-denominational choir on one side of me and a smorgasbord of chatter from interfaith volunteers in our kitchen on the other side.

Looking around the room, I could visualize the truth of this interfaith event as the choir sang All Are Welcome. I felt a little closer to everyone around me when the choir sang a litany of our shared ancestors; the same ones we mention each Shabbat: Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Miriam.

I looked around again and realized our shelter of peace was filled with those seeking refuge for the holy intent found in their hearts. I said a silent prayer asking God to give these women the strength they will need for the road they are about to walk down.

I realized my purpose for being there was to continue my education, witness a holy event experienced through my Jewish faith and interaction with other faiths to create inclusiveness on a regular basis, and learn how to walk in the ways of my words.

There is power in our words and how we choose to use them. When we say we are inclusive, we don’t get to say… “Except for…”

I can retell Sunday’s events only from my perspective of a Jew by Choice. I feel it has enriched my spiritual growth to see our words put into actions supporting our values. While we all see God from different perspectives, there is only one Source of all Creation and we are all part of that Oneness. Acceptance of our differences would seem to be the key to…shalom.

Michele C. Long

Dittmer, Mo.

Notwithstanding my deepest respect for Rabbi Susan Talve, her decision to permit two Roman Catholic women to use Central Reform Congregation as the venue in which they were recently ordained as priests, unequivocally set back Jewish-Catholic relations to a point whereby, they could be irretrievably broken.

I suspect her intentions were good, but truth be told, she only succeeded in exacerbating anti-Semitism, not only by followers of the Catholic religion, but by Christians of other faiths, as well.

It seems rather obvious to me that Rabbi Talve took it upon herself to arbitrarily make a decision that was not only injudicious, but showed a complete lack of common sense.

What is it about interfering into the business of the Roman Catholic Church that she fails to comprehend? Would any Jewish temple or synagogue want, or condone the Catholic Church, or any other Christian affiliation, interfering in Jewish affairs, or holding such Jewish celebrations in its churches?

What makes Rabbi Talve’s cursory decision even worse, is that she knows that the Roman Catholic Church does not sanction or recognize women priests, but this did not deter her in any way in allowing the two women in question and their followers and adherents to use the temple’s facilities.

Such chutzpah!

For her edification — although no doubt, I’m sure she’s aware — she’s incurred the vehement and vociferous wrath of St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke and the overwhelmingly disapproval of the Catholic population in the St. Louis area, but more importantly, from my perspective, the disapprobation of the St. Louis Jewish community, as well.

Furthermore, according to reports in the Post-Dispatch, the Rev. Vincent Heier, who directs the Catholic Church’s interfaith efforts in St. Louis, said that the archdiocese will not participate in any more interfaith events if Central Reform Congregation is “a leading player.”

I once read a quote from the late, legendary, author and humorist Mark Twain, in which he stated: “Be sure you’re right, then go right ahead.”

Suffice to say, Rabbi Talve wasn’t right, and the results of her actions have not only been deleterious, but it pains me to think about the possible further repercussions that the future holds in store.

Gene Carton


I am writing today in public support and gratitude for Central Reform Congregation’s board, members, staff and rabbis for providing sanctuary to the womanpriests for their ordination.

The significance of the day for me was a living out of God’s shalom in an expansive way that made hospitality and sanctuary living realities. Moreover as these Catholic women found shelter at the synagogue and were ordained by their priests, in the audience and participating were also representatives of many Protestant Christian denominations.

We who are Christian on that day and for those few hours are able to relax all demoninational tensions and to be women and men of God together. Our Christian scripture writers tell us that Jesus prayed to God that all who believed in God might be one.

When the CRC board and community decided to live their core values of hospitality, the CRC sanctuary which is holy ground became shared holy ground. I realize some may disagree with the decision and some in Catholicism are feeling very hurt by this action.

I just wish they could have been there to see the peace and joy in those moments. I say thank you to CRC and to the Jewish community as a whole for having values and faith and sticking to them.

The lessons we Christians can learn about hospitality and holy ground and inclusion are endless. I pray the whole interfaith community can build on this day to work together for justice.

Lorrie Kovell

Eden seminarian,

CRC Interfaith Intern 2006-2007

Webster Groves

OK, I can take a joke — someone said “CRC” stands for “Congregation for the Receiving of Catholics.” How about the “Congregation that Respects Catholics”? or “Congregation for the Recognition of Civility”? I attended the ordination ceremony that was held at Central Reform Congregation this past Sunday.

It was absolutely stunning — an incredibly spiritual, uplifting experience, attended by an amazingly diverse group of people — ethnically, religiously, racially — and the place was packed to the walls!

A Catholic ordination ceremony held in a Jewish house of worship, known for its founding principles of inclusivity, honoring and supporting diversity, and providing sanctuary for people who have nowhere else to turn. When the presiding Bishop (Patricia Fresen) — a phenomenal woman with a beautiful British accent –invoked the names of biblical patriarchs and matriarchs usually associated with Jewish traditions (plus a few Christian prophets, for good measure) and stated, “I believe Jesus would feel very at home here,” the crowd rose and applauded loudly.

This was a great day for humanity. I revel in what transpired at CRC this past Sunday, and in the bold spirit of those who would act according to the highest ideals of humanity.

I support those who would carry out their faith in God with altruistic motives, who would devote themselves and go through personal sacrifice to heal and to help and to lead others toward what is righteous, just, and holy. Even if their religious beliefs are different from mine. That’s what being a Reform Jew is all about, at least to me.

Steven J. Fliesler

St. Louis

Have we already forgotten centuries of oppression? Have we gotten so comfortable in these few decades since the Holocaust that we have already lost our compassion? The Roman Catholic Womenpriests needed a shelter in which to have their ordination ceremony. I recall many times during our history when we have needed shelter! Thankfully, we often found it among those godly people of other religions. The Jewish community cannot without hypocrisy refuse to assist the most vulnerable of the world community. Now that we have some power, wealth, and security, it is our responsibility to help those who are being oppressed. That includes allowing refugees from Darfur into Israel, as well as providing female Catholic priests a holy space in which to practice their religion. Thankfully, we have that space to offer.

Krista Hyde

St. Louis